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Governor, IDPH, and ISBE Shorten Isolation and Quarantine Timeframes and Release Updated Guidance Documents

Education K-12 Education

After announcing last week its plans to adopt the CDC’s new recommended shortened timeframes for exclusion, the IDPH and ISBE released several new guidance documents making such changes. The new guidance documents, as well as a new Executive Order, adopt the updated timeframes for excluding positive cases and close contacts and a revised definition of close contact. The new guidance should allow students and staff to remain in school or return to school faster after an exposure, symptoms, or a positive test result. A total of six documents were released to support these new updates:  

Executive Order 2022-03: Orders updated exclusion timeframes for confirmed or probable cases, symptomatic individuals, and close contacts, as well as an updated definition of close contact.  

Revised Public Health Guidance for Schools: Part 5 – Supporting Fully In-Person Learning for All Students: Updated to reflect changes consistent with the new Executive Order. 

ISBE/IDPH FAQ: Contains redlined changes to various questions and answers addressing the updated exclusion timeframes, as well as additional guidance on masking, testing, and local health department authority. 

Public Health Interim Guidance for LHDs and Pre-K-12 Schools – COVID-19 Exclusion Protocols: Reiterates updated guidance and definitions from the Executive Order and provides detailed steps to take in different exclusion situations, as well as associated flowcharts. 

Interim Guidance on Testing for COVID—19 in Community Settings and Schools: Includes updates and details on Test to Stay, screening, and outbreak testing. 

Test to Stay Protocol Flowchart: Sets out the test-to-stay protocol, as modified by the new quarantine and isolation timelines.

The Executive Order and updated guidance include the following key updates: 

  • Shortened exclusion timeframe for Positive Cases: Requires schools to exclude any student or school personnel who is a confirmed case or probable case, regardless of vaccination status, for a minimum of 5 days and a maximum of 10 days following: (1) the onset date if symptomatic or (2) the date of specimen collection for a positive test if asymptomatic. Students and school personnel who are symptomatic can return to school after 5 days only if they are fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication, if diarrhea or vomiting have ceased for 24 hours, and if other symptoms have improved. Such individuals must continue to wear a mask at all times around others, including when outdoors, for an additional 5 days after they return to school. 
  • Fully Vaccinated and Boosted are Excluded from Close Contacts: Updates “close contact” definition to exclude:  
    • those students and staff age 18 and older who are fully vaccinated and received all recommended boosters and  
    • students ages 5-17 who are fully vaccinated. 
  • Shortened exclusion timeframe for Close Contacts: Requires schools to: 
    • exclude any student or school personnel who is a Close Contact for a minimum of 5 days following exposure, and  
    • require such individuals to continue to wear a mask at all times around others, including when outdoors, for an additional 5 days after they return to School. 

Alternatively, schools may use a Test-to-Stay program to permit close contacts who are asymptomatic and exposed at school during the school day to remain at school provided they test negative at least two times within 7 days after the close contact. 

  • Face Coverings: The FAQ provides links to lists of masks that meet the standards set by the CDC and ASTM. Additionally, recommends choosing a surgical mask rather than a cloth mask and provides guidance on fit and materials. Provides that everyone wear a mask during outdoor activities that are crowded.
  • Symptomatic Individuals: Permits negative rapid antigen test results for symptomatic individuals to return to school; home testing is still not acceptable. At schools where testing is available, recommends individuals be tested before being sent home with COVID-19 like symptoms.
  • Local Health Department Authority: Reiterates that local health departments are the final authority regarding quarantine exclusion recommendations, that Test to Stay is the preferred method for addressing close contacts identified within the school setting, and that while schools should follow the updated timeframes for exclusion of confirmed and probable cases as well as close contacts, a school district’s local health department may supply alternative dates as to when a student or staff member can return to school up to a maximum of 10 days. Reiterates that exclusion should be implemented even if an isolation or quarantine order has not been issued or has expired. But if an isolation or quarantine order from the local health department is still in effect at the end of the exclusion period, the individual should remain excluded.
  • Restrictions for those returning after 5 days or doing test to stay: Emphasizes having a plan for students returning after five days to allow for adequate distance from others when masks are removed (e.g. during lunch) and for masks to be otherwise consistently worn for ten days from exposure or positive test result. Clarifies that individuals returning from 5 days of isolation, quarantine, or exclusion must wear a mask indoors and outdoors during days 6 through 10. Individuals who cannot wear a well-fitted mask due to a medical contraindication should be excluded for the full 10 days rather than the new shorter timeframes.
  • Test to Stay: While a close contact participating in test-to-stay who remains asymptomatic may participate in extracurricular activities (while fully masked and physically distanced as much as possible), the guidance states that the student should not participate in competitions or performances during the testing period. Individuals who are fully vaccinated (including boosters for 18 and older) are not considered close contacts and do not have to participate in test-to-stay, though they should test 5 days after the close contact.
  • Adaptive Pause/Temporary School Closures: Confirms that an adaptive pause can only occur in consultation with a local health department and consistent with local health department guidance or requirements. Prohibits adaptive pauses using remote learning from being utilized due to staffing shortages in schools. Provides that an adaptive pause is generally unnecessary if the school follows appropriate mitigation strategies and gives examples of when an adaptive pause might be useful.  

Join us on Tuesday, January 18 at noon for a Franczek Webinar where we will dive further into the Executive Order and IDPH and ISBE guidance issued, address the major and nuanced updates to the guidance, discuss other school-related topics top of mind for administrators, and answer your questions.